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Lessons from the CO2 level

People, whether they are elected officials or regular citizens, are remembered for both what they do and what they do not do ("A New CO2 Record," News Blog). When I remember President Ronald Reagan, only one thing comes to mind. When faced with the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis, he did absolutely nothing.

Just recently, the world was presented with information that the concentration of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere had reached a distressing milestone of 400 parts per million. The question I have is this: What will YOU do now?

I contemplate environmental issues every single day and ask myself what more I can do to help. And honestly, there is not much more I can personally do. My carbon footprint is small. I have been on a self-imposed gasoline limit of five gallons per week for over two years.

But bigger questions loom right now that must take into consideration the 400 parts-per-million milestone. Considering development of new fossil-fuel resources is insane. President Obama needs to stop Keystone XL, and Governor Cuomo needs to ban fracking in New York.

Elected officials in general need to stop lying. There is no such thing as clean coal. Natural gas is not a bridge fuel to the future. It is a detour around efforts to develop and convert to renewable, sustainable, and truly clean energy sources.

Natural gas is also a U-turn to old thinking. Gas companies and their spokespeople in elected office repeatedly tell us we are sitting on huge reserves of cheap natural gas, and this in turn leads back to thinking Americans have energy to waste.

Four hundred parts per million is serious. Elected officials and citizens must take decisive action now and demand that even more action be taken all around the world. How we respond to the news of 400 parts per million will decide what type of future Earth will have... or whether we have a future.


Conservatives' obstructionism

Reading Dave Frantz's letter, "Government and Freedom" (Feedback, May 15), I was struck again by how absent facts are from conservative ideology. Assertions and generalizations are seldom backed up with substance. Conservatives have long been the major obstacle to rights and freedoms. Whether it was Jim Crow laws, denial of the vote for women, the blacklists of McCarthyism, or the spying and disruptive tactics against the antiwar movement of the '60s and '70s, conservatives have led the way.

Today they remain largely opposed to gay marriage, and in states run by Republicans they're pushing trans-vaginal probes and fetus videos on women seeking abortions, which they want to outlaw. They're for torture and for wars that enable the state to take on greater repressive powers. And the anti-government rhetoric leads to obstructionist tactics in Congress, blocking much needed efforts at gun control or infrastructure repair (which could create a couple of million new jobs).

Alternative systems like fascism arose in the 20th century because people lost faith in their own democratic or republican forms of government. Government by mega-corporations, secret police, and military are what you get when you destroy liberal government by for the people. Of course it is flawed, but as long as reform is possible it can work. The right-wing ideologues are stifling that possibility, and they are the ones with the starkest authoritarian profile.